Though predominantly Arab and Muslim, Tunisia's long history as a European colony, dating back to Roman times, and more recently as a protectorate of France, has added to the Mediterranean and North African culinary influences found in Tunisian cuisine.
For the soup:
1 pound chickpeas, washed, picked over and soaked
in 2 quarts water for 6 hours or overnight
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 heaped teaspoons cumin seeds, ground
2 tablespoons Harissa
2 to 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, to taste
For the garnishes: (for quantities, enough to fill small bowls
or ramekins that you can set on a tray)
Coarse sea salt
Chopped fresh tomatoes
Chopped green and red bell peppers
2 hardboiled eggs, chopped
Sliced pickled turnips
Flaked canned tuna fish (oil- or water-packed)
Freshly ground cumin
Finely chopped fresh parsley
Finely chopped cilantro
Sliced preserved lemons
Croutons or sliced stale bread
Thinly sliced scallions, both white and green parts
Drain the chickpeas and combine with 2 quarts water in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 1 hour.
Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium heat in a medium size, heavy nonstick frying pan and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cumin and stir together for 30 seconds to a minute, until the garlic smells fragrant. Remove from the heat and stir into the beans.
*Advance preparation: The soup can be made to this point a day or two ahead.
After the beans have cooked for an hour, stir in the harissa and salt (2 teaspoons or more). Cover and continue to cook for another 30 minutes to an hour, until the beans are very tender and the broth fragrant. Add lemon juice, taste and adjust salt.
*Advance preparation: The finished soup will taste great for another 3 to 4 days. Keep in the refrigerator.
Serve the soup, passing your choice of condiments on a large tray, or have them laid out on a buffet. Stir the condiments into the soup and enjoy.
Keeping time, leftovers The cooked chickpeas will keep for 4 to 5 days in the refrigerator. You will want to refresh the condiments each time you serve.
Leftover Leblebi Salad
Drain the beans, toss with condiments of your choice, and season to taste with lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and cumin.
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This page modified January 2007
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